Comparison

Even Ford Raptor lovers have to admit, there's areas where the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX wins

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a compelling truck for off-road enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Part of this whole "automotive journalism" thing is I get to drive new cars. Years ago, my very first loan was a 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, with the 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 making 414 horsepower. I was hooked.

Raptor quickly became my favorite pickup, and the changes the company made for the big 2017 refresh only made the truck better. Yes, Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost doesn't sound meaty like a V8, but it is faster and lighter. Add on the LiveValve suspension technology from 2019 and you have the ingredients for my favorite pickup truck.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Ford Performance showcases the jumping power of the Ford Raptor at Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

But, I also understand that competition is necessary to make products better. Consumers win where there is competition, so when I caught wind of Ram Trucks building their Raptor-fighter I was all for it.

So, while I haven't had a chance to drive the new Ram TRX, I do believe it's a truck that I could easily fall in love with. It might even replace the precious Raptor as my favorite truck. But why would it? Here's some areas where the TRX, at least on paper, beats the Raptor.

Power plant

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Raptor's 3.5-liter EcoBoost makes a perfectly acceptable 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. At no point driving Raptor have I ever thought, "Hmm, this needs more oomph." Yet, here we are with 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque in the TRX.

The EcoBoost in the Raptor will undoubtedly weigh less than the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the TRX, which always helps with handling, but in sheer grunt the Ram wins the day.

Exhaust note

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

My only real complaint about Raptor is how the truck sounds. I want a trophy truck to sound like a trophy truck, and not a modified Focus RS. The sound doesn't hurt the Raptor's performance at all but listening to the Ram TRX rev is like listening to the approaching apocalypse. It's glorious.

Technology

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Raptor is filled with modern tech, especially for off-road driving. So is the TRX, which has more USB ports (Types A and C) and a larger infotainment screen.

One interesting thing that the Ram offers that I'd love to see on the F-150 lineup is a color head-up display. Is it necessary? No, but it's one piece of tech that the Ram has that can benefit you when you're jumping dunes – knowing at what speed you hit that dune as you keep your eyes focused ahead.

Standard equipment

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Yes, the Raptor is less expensive for the base model ($53,455), which makes it a smarter buy if you just want to jump the dunes for less. But, the Ram TRX has more on its base truck than any other Hellcat-equipped FCA product, making it a bit of a bargain (if $70,000 is a bargain).

Wheels and tires

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

TRX comes with bead-lock capable wheels and 35-inch tires as standard. The bead-lock capable wheels on the Raptor are an optional upgrade. Also, the Raptor drives around on "just" 34-inch tires, while the TRX goes bigger.

Spare tire

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

From the factory, both trucks come with a spare tire mounted underneath the bed, like on a typical truck. But if you're an off-roader, you likely would like access to that tire made easier. The Mopar accessory catalog includes a spare tire carrier, which will be able to be added to the bill when your truck is ordered and installed at the factory before delivery.

For the Raptor, there are many options available for putting one or two spare tires in the bed, but none are currently available from Ford to be installed for delivery.

So, where does Raptor win?

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor's EcoBoost engine has been used during the Baja 1000 and tested extensively for desert performance. While Ram says they durability tested the motor – plus it's in thousands of vehicles already – they haven't built a race truck yet.

The Raptor will also have better fuel economy, especially with the 10-speed automatic transmission compared to Ram's eight-speed in the TRX. It's not much better, mind you, but it'll be better.

This might be personal preference, but BFG's K02s that come standard on Raptor are more appealing to me as an all-terrain tire than the Goodyear on the TRX. On paper, the same applies for the Fox Racing shocks; I haven't seen how these Bilsteins perform yet.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor will likely have a bit better handling. It'll be a lighter truck with less weight in the nose, which will make it steer and handle a bit better. How much better? I'm itching to get behind the wheel and find out.

Finally, the Raptor, in its current guise, is cheaper. A fully loaded Launch Edition TRX is over $90,000. It starts a shade under $70,000 for the base truck. Yes, there's more standard features but there's a significant price jump from Raptor's approximately $54,000 base price. All in, albeit for a few accessories like a tonneau cover, the Raptor comes to around $72,000.

The ultimate winner?

Until the trucks are driven back-to-back there's no clear winner. If you like just pure horsepower, the Ram is what you want. But the Raptor is still an immensely capable pickup with a proven record of performance.

With that being said, the Ram TRX appears to be an EXTREMELY compelling offering and will likely sell like bananas. At least until Ford releases an updated Raptor here in the near future.

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New off-roader

Ford Bronco Production Officially Begins

The Ford Bronco is finally ready for primetime.

Ford

The time is finally here. After years of speculation and several months of pandemic-related delays, the Ford Bronco is starting to roll off the assembly line. The SUV marks the first new Bronco model in Ford's lineup in 15 years, not counting the Bronco Sport, and is one of the most hyped and sought-after vehicles to hit the market in quite some time. Ford's announcement that production has begun will be accompanied by a special YouTube presentation that Ford says will include interviews with the Bronco team and with reservation holders at the automaker's new Modification Center.


2021 Ford Bronco Ford added 2,700 jobs to support Bronco production.Ford


Bronco production has driven Ford to invest $750 million into its Michigan Assembly Plant, and the automaker says it has added 2,700 jobs to support the rollout. Ford's push to begin production can't come soon enough. Over 125,000 Bronco orders have been placed, and multiple delays have pushed the vehicle's arrival back, meaning there is considerable demand for the off-road legend.

Ford is ready to capitalize on the craze and will offer several ways to customize the new vehicle. At its 1.7 million square-foot Modification Center, The Blue Oval will factory-install several optional modifications that include equipment such as a front bumper safari bar, graphics packages, roof racks, and more. That's on top of more than 200 factory-backed accessories that can be installed at the dealer, either at or after the time of purchase.


2021 Ford Bronco Delays and production difficulties have pushed the Bronco back.Ford


If you are hoping to get behind the wheel of a new Bronco, it could be a while. Even buyers that have been in line for a while now might not see their new vehicle until late 2021 or 2022, and the vehicle's official rollout will almost certainly re-spike demand. Even so, many feel it's worth the wait, and Ford's vehicle configuration tool is live, so go check it out for yourself.

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The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

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